Twitter, like Facebook, adds old-school elements to its mobile ad network

Apparently it’s “Back to the Future” week for social networks’ ad networks.

A few days after Facebook announced it would begin to bring its Audience Network to the desktop web for the first time — albeit only for traditional in-stream video ads at the moment — Twitter is bringing its Twitter Audience Platform to the desktop and mobile web, albeit only for some advertisers, at the moment.

Both companies’ moves acknowledge that, for all the talk of “mobile-first” this and “native” that, the worldwide web may be a relic but remains a real, if supplementary, revenue stream.

Launched in April 2014 as a mobile in-app ad network and beefed up in August 2015 with some new ad formats and a new name, until now, TAP was mainly a way for brands to extend their on-Twitter campaigns outside of Twitter. But it had its limits. It was only available to some advertisers. Its ads only ran inside of mobile apps. And it didn’t have much parity with the ads brands were running on Twitter. Sure, advertisers could syndicate their Promoted Tweet and Promoted Video ads across TAP, but only if they were looking to get people to retweet their ads or watch their videos. If a brand wanted to run ads to get people to visit their sites or install their apps across TAP — like the ones they ran on Twitter — they had to handle those separately, assuming the brand was part of the test.

Now, Twitter’s bringing some more parity between brands’ on-Twitter and off-Twitter campaigns, though not complete parity. In addition to ads pushing tweet engagements and video views, now all brands, including small and medium-sized businesses, can run ads on both Twitter and across TAP to push website clicks and conversions, as well as mobile app installs.

But wider availability and broader business objectives aren’t the only ways Twitter’s ad network is maturing. It’s also adding some pieces that recall an old-school desktop display ad network, such as the basic banners that have been shown to Internet Explorer users for years.

For starters, Twitter is going to start bringing these off-Twitter ads to the worldwide web. Some advertisers in the US will be able to use TellApart — the automated ad-buying firm Twitter bought in April 2015 — to run their TAP ads across the desktop and mobile web. But there are limits: 1) This is a test; and 2) only the ads driving website clicks and conversions can be placed across the web through TellApart.

And, like Facebook adding the comparatively old-school in-stream-plus-desktop video ads to its primarily native-and-mobile Audience Network, Twitter is also adding some throwback ad formats to its ad network’s portfolio. Advertisers that have their own Twitter sales reps will now be able to run IAB-standardized display ads — but not IAB-standardized video ads — through TAP. Those basic banners may be susceptible to banner blindness and may contribute to ad blocking’s rise, but they’re also super-easy for advertisers to run because so many sites have incorporated them into their pages, which would also make them fairly easy for a company like Twitter to sell. And hasn’t selling more ads more easily always been the point of running an ad network?

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.